The Communion of Saints
On Friday, November 1st, 2019 we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. This is the day we recognize and rejoice in the "Communion of Saints": all those men and women - canonized or not - who by their holy lives in faith join in proclaiming the glory of God for all eternity. What exactly does this mean and what are the implications for us still on the journey; "saints in training", by God's gracious will?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has this to say about the communion of saints:
"We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers" (CCC 962, citing St. Pope Paul VI, The Creed of the People of God § 30).
By being members of the Body of Christ, we are what is called the "family" of the Christian faith. God is our Father, Jesus Christ is our brother, while the Holy Spirit confers upon us the love that unites us to the Father, to the Son and to each other. Together with Mary, the Mother of God, the saints - those who are in Heaven - remain our brothers and sisters who are definitively home and who never cease with their prayers to help the rest of us who are still engaged in the struggle: "Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan" (CCC 2683).
This should be a great source of comfort, particularly in those times when we feel alone. As one of the prayers for the Sacrament of Anointing says: "when [those who are afflicted are] alone, assure them of the support of God's holy people." Each of us, united by virtue of Baptism, is spiritually fulfilled only by virtue of our communion with others. Far from losing our sense of identity, this communion in fact fulfills our individuality: unique and irreplaceable parts in God's plan of salvation.
This truth of our faith is what helps us in our relationships to others and how important it is for us to be open in both giving and receiving. The more one gives, the more one receives; by the very fact of giving, one receives: "Faith is a treasure of lives which is enriched by being shared" (CCC 949). Conversely, "every sin harms this communion" (CCC 953) and not just the sinner alone.
This interconnection that we share is reflected in our worship. During Baptism, the sacrament that introduces us to this communion, we invoke the prayers of the blessed through the Litany of Saints on behalf of the person who is about to be baptized. In the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders, their intercession is once again requested on the confirmandi / ordinandi as they are about to be set in their mission for the Church. In every celebration of the Eucharist, the "Prayers of the Faithful" (also known as the Petitions, General Intercessions and Universal Prayer), we offer prayers on behalf of those in need as well as for ourselves. Something would be missing in our reception of the Eucharist if we failed the take into account our brothers and sisters in the faith in our prayers and gratitude for Christ's gift of himself to us.
This Communion of Saints is something that can at help to keep us in perspective as well as provide a great source of hope. As inscribed in the chapel of Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins in Rome:
What you are now, we once were
What we are now, you shall be.
In the spiritual sense, the saints in Heaven once struggled with sin - as we do now.
With God's grace and mercy, we who now struggle, persevering in faith, will one day be united with the saints in Heaven. Both now and then, we remain united in the Body of Christ.
Pray, hope, and don't worry.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
Our FORMED Recommendation for the Week
Movie (34 minutes) -
One Step is Enough: Cardinal John Henry Newman
One Step is Enough is a biography of John Henry Newman, a 19th century British theologian and historian. Newman was raised in the Anglican Church and became an Anglican priest and a professor at Oxford. Over time he became critical of both the evangelical emphasis on dramatic personal conversion as well as the merely academic or intellectual Christianity that was common at Oxford. He believed in the need for critical thinking as well as intense prayerful devotion. This led Newman to promote the idea of "via media" or a middle way between Protestantism and Catholicism. But when he offered a new interpretation of the 39 articles of the Anglican Church, he faced intense opposition from within his denomination. Finally in 1845, Newman became a Roman Catholic. His legacy is that of a prophetic thinker whose ideas profoundly influenced the Second Vatican Council of the 1960's. Newman died in 1890, was beatified in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI and canonized by Pope Francis on October 13, 2019.
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Fr. Ed Blanchett
on Friday, November 1, 2019 at 3:00PM